The modern working world is so filled with distractions – even when trying to write an introduction to an article about mental clarity! Between Slack messages, incoming emails, and the siren call of an Internet rabbit hole made of cute kitten pictures, you’d be hard-pressed not to go off course at least once or twice. Needless to say, it’s almost impossible to reach that sublime state of hyper-focus, where everything melts away, and your only concern is your work.
So, that’s the bad news. The good news is that even if you can’t create the perfect, distraction-free working environment, you can get pretty close.
If technology in 2019 could be summed up using just one word, it’d be “immediacy.” Not only do we have immediate access to information, but other people have immediate access to us. Social media is partially to blame, but so too is the advent of workplace chat tools, like Slack, HipChat and Microsoft Teams.
Notifications can be helpful, but if you’re trying to accomplish your best, most thoughtful work, they can also be a tremendous hindrance. So, put your phone on silent. Shove it in a drawer. Suppress notifications on your chat apps for a disciplined period of time each week. And tell your colleagues you’re going silent for a few hours. They can disturb you at their own peril!
Research suggests that in an 8-hour day, the average worker is productive for two hours and 53 minutes. That’s less than 40% of their prescribed work day. The typical working environment makes it hard to accomplish your best work with “open” office floor plans and democratic Spotify playlist control on the Sonos system. Another huge reason for lack of productivity that is we’re simultaneously being pulled in millions of directions. We try to do so much, and consequently, we do very little.
To mitigate this, try using the Pomodoro Method, which forces you to dedicate time to dedicated focus, while also taking regular breaks. Typically, you’ll work for 25 minutes, and then take a five minute break. The actual timings are entirely up to you; what matters is that you’ve got a regular cadence of work and rest.
You could use your five-minute break for grabbing a coffee, or using the restroom. Or you could use it to do smaller tasks that you may have missed, like replying to emails, or placing a quick phone call.
The best part about the Pomodoro Method is that you can use anything to adopt it, whether it be incorporating old-school egg timers or a new-fangled productivity app, such as the Marinara Timer or Tomighty. There are no shortages of apps you can download for Android and iOS, as well as Windows and MacOS.
As mentioned with the Pomodoro Method, there are tons of productivity apps for any operating system that can keep you on task. There are ways you can engineer your working environment to minimize distractions, and a really simple start is to modify the software you use.
Apps like Monday and ToDoist can help you gain control of your life, whether you’re working independently or with a team. When you’re not worried about remembering the next item you or your teammate is crossing off, you’ll be able to be more present with the project at hand.
If your desk is full of paper clutter, there’s an app for that, too. Having too much physical distraction in your environment can keep you off task, so make sure to recycle the papers you know you’ll never need again and make a digital scan of those that you might. Using a document scanner, such as the ScanSnap iX1500 or the more compact (read: less desk space needed!) ScanSnap iX100 can help you scan and store those files directly to a preferred cloud service like Google Drive, Box, Evernote and more. Plus, using the ScanSnap Connect app, scanned images can be saved to mobile devices such as a tablet and smartphone, using wireless LAN. With this app, you’ll be able to receive the scanned image via your computer, or scan directly to a mobile device.
With mobile devices and teleconferencing, “telecommuting” or remote work is becoming more and more feasible across a variety of industries, such as technology, finance, hospitality and more. If you’re lucky enough to work for a company that permits remote working, you should take advantage of it.
Why? Firstly, it’s good to get a change of scenery from time to time, and your kitchen table is probably a lovely break from the usual hustle and bustle of a corporate office environment.
But also, if you’re working from home, it’s far easier to create a distraction-free environment that fosters mental focus and clarity. You can seclude yourself from your colleagues to focus on deep work, and remove the constant hum of noise generated by phones, photocopiers, and workplace conversations. Plus, with the decreased commuting-related stress, you’ll be in a more positive mindset to tackle your to-dos.
If you want to work better, you’ve got to be better. That means eating right, getting enough sleep, and finding time to exercise. No amount of productivity life-hacks can help you if you’re exhausted and unwell.
So, cancel that Postmates order. Fix yourself a salad. Go for a walk. Shut off your phone. Take a nap. And then catch up with your emails. Your body will thank you.